The first time I encountered salad rolls was when a Vietnamese restaurant named “Saigon Rose” appeared on the Camrose food scene. It was a big deal. Our little rural Albertan town certainly didn’t offer much in the name of quality Asian food – or really any Asian food at all. (As we’ve mentioned before, even bagels seemed exotic to Kelsey and I when we were growing up.) Anyway, Saigon Rose set up shop on Main Street when we were in high school, sandwiched between Duff Layton’s Menswear and Dairy Queen. It quickly became a town favourite. At any given lunch hour, you would see Camrose’s fanciest and most powerful residents (like the mayor?!?) sitting alongside ‘regular folk’ and even high school students like Kelsey and I. It was magic.
We quickly fell in love with pho, but a meal at Saigon Rose always began with traditional salad rolls. They were so delicious and full of vegetables (and vermicelli and shrimp)! I often ordered some to go in addition to the ones I ate at the restaurant.
Lunches at Saigon Rose made us feel super wise and worldly. They also sparked my interest in foods outside the realm of ham and swiss sandwiches from Tim Hortons. And even though I’ve had easy access to steaming bowls of pho almost everywhere I’ve lived since then (shout out to Mr. Red Cafe in Vancouver!!), I still try to stop into Saigon Rose at least once on my visits home. It continues to have the same magic community vibe, the kind where everyone forgets about politics and just focuses on chowing down, ya know?? Plus, I’ll almost always see someone I know, which is an excellent opportunity to catch up on my Camrose gossip (note: this can also be done at Safeway or Fiona’s Coffee).
To this day, salad rolls remain one of my favourite ways to consume vegetables (and peanut sauce). If you can get your hands on a package of rice papers (which I see in the mainstream grocery stores more and more these days) they are super easy to whip up and have on hand for lunches, appetizers, snacks, or any sort of low-glycemic moment you might encounter throughout the week. They just require a little prep work, i.e. slicing your veggies super thin for maximum rolling potential and optimum mouth feels.
The recipe for rainbow salad rolls that I’m sharing today is by no means a traditional Vietnamese style roll, but it’s certainly inspired by the ones I ate at Saigon Rose in my youth! These rainbow salad rolls are simple and nutritious (and mega colourful, cuz duh), with only 3 ingredients for the filling and a mouthwatering dipping sauce that uses almond butter instead of peanut butter (though you can use any type of nut butter you have on hand).
Our rainbow salad rolls are also featured as an appetizer dish in this year’s Vancity Virtual Potluck! Over 35 food bloggers from Vancouver are posting recipes online today to contribute to the “potluck”, including appetizers, mains, and desserts. You can take part by searching the hashtag #VancityVirtualPotluck on social media, or by clicking the buttons for “Last Dish” and “Next Dish” below. This is a wonderful event hosted by Lindsay at Piquant Marketing, and we are stoked to be included. Hurray!
You can eat now!
- About half a head of purple cabbage
- 1 lime
- 1 glug olive oil
- salt + pepper to taste
- 6-10 carrots
- 1 bell pepper
- 10 rice papers
- 1/4 cup almond butter
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp molasses
- 1 tbsp honey or agave syrup
- 1 tbsp tamari
- 1 tsp garlic chili sauce (or 1/4 tsp cayenne powder) (optional)
- Shave the cabbage as thinly as possible, preferably with a mandolin. Toss in lime juice, olive oil, and salt + pepper and set aside (this is to "soften" the cabbage up and aids in digestion).
- Slice carrots thinly with a mandoline or julienne peeler.
- Slice the bell pepper thinly, preferably with a mandoline, but a knife works well.
- Wet one rice paper at a time by running under warm water for 5 seconds until loose and pliable. Lay your rice paper on a clean surface and add a portion of all three vegetables near one end. Begin rolling, tucking in the edges as you go, until you get to the end of the roll. This video is helpful!
- Whisk almond butter and hot water together in a pan over medium heat until smooth.
- Whisk the rest of the ingredients in one at a time, keeping the heat consistent and mixture smooth.
- Enjoy immediately! But will stay good in the fridge for a few days.